Cooking with Garlic

Garlic is one of the most commonly used spices in the world. Perhaps because it is so versatile. It can be used with a wide variety of meats and vegetables. Some experts have even found ways of putting it in desserts!

There are many garlic varieties, and these varieties come in many forms. Garlic can be purchased in braids, as a bulb, in individual cloves, chopped in oil, dried, and powdered. All will exhibit that distinctive garlic flavor, though often in different ways. Dried and powdered garlic is handy to keep in the spice cabinet for use in recipes and to sprinkle on some quick garlic bread, pizza, or to flavor up a tasteless soup or chili. Yet to get the real taste of garlic it is best to use unprocessed cloves.

As rule of thumb, the smaller garlic is cut and the less it is cooked, the more pungent the flavor will be. This means cooked whole cloves will have a mellow flavor, and crushing raw garlic into a salad will bring on an intense flavor.

A popular way to prepare garlic for use on fresh baked bread is to slice off the top of the bulb, spread a bit of olive oil on top of the exposed cloves, wrap the clove in foil (or place on a covered stoneware cooking dish) and place it in a 375° Fahrenheit (191° Celsius) oven for about 1/2 hour. When the garlic is removed from the oven it can be squeezed to spread on the bread.

To sauté garlic, place a pad of butter in a cast-iron skillet on medium heat. When butter has melted, add chopped garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until flavor has mellowed.

Using a Garlic Press

To release the pungent flavor of garlic, the best method is to use a press. Choose a sturdy press, as some inexpensive models will not last very long. To press garlic, simply peel the layers of parchment from the bulb, separating the cloves. Without peeling the cloves, put them into the press and squeeze. The garlic will come out the holes in the press. Some will shoot out, some will ooze out, so be careful to direct the press toward a dish. Quickly run a knife along to the bottom side of the press to remove all the crushed garlic. Remove the skins from the press and rinse the press.

Using a press is by far the easiest way to deal with garlic. The same effect can be accomplished using a butcher knife. Simply put the clove on a cutting board, lay the flat of the knife blade on top of the garlic, then lightly hit the flat of the blade with the bottom side of a closed fist. This is a maneuver that can be dangerous to those not familiar with the use of knives. If choosing to use this method, proceed with caution. Garlic can also be minced by peeling the cloves and chopping them finely with a knife.

Buying and Storing Garlic

When shopping for garlic, choose firm bulbs. If there are black spots under the parchment, this may mean that there is mold growing there. This will eventually degrade the cloves.

Garlic can be stored on the counter-top or even in the spice cabinet in a small brown paper bag. It is probably best to keep it away from other foods. Do not put it in air-tight containers or in the refrigerator (this could cause it to sprout). Garlic will keep for extended periods, as long as six and nine months under the proper conditions. However, it will slowly degrade, either by drying out or sprouting.

Should a bulb happen to sprout, it can actually be planted in the garden or in a container.

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